HOW many times have you enjoyed a great meal at a cafe, only to be stung by a sneaky credit card surcharge or minimum spend at the end?
But now, nasty bill surprises could finally become a thing of the past thanks to a groundbreaking new campaign launched by comparison site finder.com.au.
The Fee-Free Shop campaign has been designed to recognise Aussie businesses that choose not to charge customers a minimum spend or a credit card surcharge fee.
New finder.com.au figures show 94 per cent of Australians think credit card surcharges are a rip-off, while more than two-thirds of shoppers say they would back out of a purchase altogether if they discovered a surcharge would apply.
Finder.com.au money expert Bessie Hassan said she hoped the campaign would encourage shops to stop penalising customers who choose to pay by card.
“Surcharges and minimum spend requirements should be a thing of the past,” she said.
“It’s 2018 after all and we’re becoming a cashless society, so Aussies shouldn’t be charged for simply choosing to pay by card.
“It’s time to shine the spotlight on the businesses where Aussies won’t encounter these outdated fees.”
A finder.com.au survey also found one in three customers were not informed they would be charged a fee for using their credit card at the point of purchase — something Ms Hassan slammed as “unfair”.
Restaurants were the biggest culprits, with 13 per cent of respondents admitting they’d been slapped with a surcharge without their knowledge while dining out.
Surcharges are often also applied at hotels, cafes and when buying tickets for a concert, and young adults are also big targets, with 42 per cent of Generation Y stung by a surprise surcharge.
Businesses that sign up to the new campaign can now be identified via a special “Fee-Free Shop” sticker displayed in store (which they will receive once verified) or through Finder’s interactive online Fee-Free Shops map.
Ms Hassan said it was now illegal for businesses to charge more than the amount it cost them to accept card payments, which works out to be about 1.5 per cent for a Visa or Mastercard, or 0.5 per cent for a debit card.
Ms Hassan said she expected more Australian businesses to start phasing out unnecessary credit card surcharges — or risk losing customers.
“In the initial stage of the campaign which starts today, members of the public are encouraged to nominate shops that don’t charge extra fees for paying by card. Businesses are also encouraged to nominate themselves,” she said.
Consumer campaigner Christopher Zinn has thrown his support behind the campaign, telling news.com.au surcharges were a pet hate of consumers.
“I think it’s a good idea in a number of ways. One, surcharges are a bad idea because consumers really hate them, and if you are meant to be a consumer-friendly business, I can’t see why at the very end of a job or transaction or experience you would hit people up for a sum we know through research people really object to,” he said.
“It’s often quite a trivial amount but it sticks in the craw in a very big way.
“It’s up to businesses to do what they want but what I like about campaigns like this is it highlights businesses that do what I consider to be the right thing by absorbing the cost of taking cash, cards or any payment system in the price as you see it, so there are no nasty extras.”
He said some businesses “might not fully appreciate” how the dreaded surcharge can affect repeat business from customers.
“The main thing is actually time. Australians have adopted tap and go with gay abandon; we’re world leaders and it has enormous benefits for customers in a rush but also shops and cafes too. Tap and go is a real boon because it’s so quick,” he said.
“Any business is free to make a surcharge at a reasonable level according to ACCC guidelines and set a minimum spend but as a customer I’m also free to go somewhere else and that potential cost is much greater than what a credit or debit card might have.”
Social users can also use the hashtag #feefreeshop to let other customers know about merchants who don’t pass on fees to their customers.
Already, 224 shops have signed up and others are encouraged to join the campaign here.
Finder.com.au calculated credit card surcharge fees for coffee purchases alone could collectively be costing Australians 10 million per year.